This is a time of uncertainty which can be difficult. It is only human to want to know what lies ahead. Keep in mind, however, that all high school students are in the same position as you. There have been many changes impacting college admissions and higher education and we will be guiding you through all these changes. Here is a summary of recent developments with resources to help you manage it all. Be sure to contact us with any questions.
Standardized Testing Postponed. As you know, the SAT and ACT for March and April have been postponed. College Board is considering adding additional test dates, so stay tuned. The next scheduled tests are for June. However, it would be wise to register now for the July ACT or in late April for the August SAT (when registration is expected to open).
Colleges Relaxing Testing Requirements. Many colleges such as Tufts, Case Western, and Scripps are going test optional for those applying in fall of 2021. Keep in mind that it is still best to prepare for and take the SAT or ACT because, even at test-optional colleges, the vast majority of accepted applicants have submitted tests. MIT just dropped their SAT Subject test requirement, leaving very few colleges that now recommend them. Even for those that do recommend them, they have lowered this expectation for class of 2021 applicants.
AP Exams To Go Online. AP exams will be offered online at 45 minutes each. The College Board is redesigning the exam questions to reduce the likelihood of cheating. Students will be asked to read original source material and answer questions. The math questions will be complex, requiring focus. Security tools will be incorporated as well. Details on the tests are available here and College Board plans to issue practice material. It is not yet clear whether colleges will accept AP credit for these exams.
Virtual Opportunities To Learn About Colleges. Just about every college is adding virtual information sessions and chats. Be sure you add yourself to the mailing list of your colleges of interest via the admissions page so you will be notified of events. Checkout this list of virtual programming. Colleges have relaxed their expectations of in-person visits as these are cancelled for the foreseeable future. Use virtual means to demonstrate interest in colleges.
Re-evaluate Your College List. Consider adding colleges where you are apt to receive merit scholarships, as well as a couple of colleges closer to home where you expect to be admitted. If you don’t expect to have as many chances at taking standardized tests as you anticipated, add a few test-optional colleges where you are a strong candidate beyond scores.
Spring Grading Effect on GPA and College Lists. Not all high schools have decided how to handle grading for this spring though many expect to grade on a pass/fail basis. If you were a junior hoping to use this spring to increase your GPA this may not be possible. While colleges will be understanding of this dilemma as they review your transcript, position yourself to do your best work next fall. Choose senior courses where you are challenging yourself but at a level where you can still earn strong grades. Opt for rigor where sensible.
Show Initiative, Have Fun By Making Use Of Your Time Off. This is a perfect time to pursue a hobby, interest, or course that you don’t have time for during the regular school year. You could also go deeper in course work for a subject you love or brush up on skills for a class you find challenging to position yourself for success next school year. Choose something that interests you but bear in mind that this might also enhance your presentation to colleges. Here are some ideas.
Make alternative summer plans. It is still unknown what this summer will bring so if you were planning to do a program that involves in-person interaction such as a summer job, camp or pre-college experience, you might consider some backup plans such as an online course. To the grading point above, you can use summer to challenge yourself with coursework that may partially compensate for a lower GPA.
Many colleges have extended deposit deadlines to June 1. This tool from the National Association for College Admissions Counseling is continually updated. While this tool also indicates colleges that are still open for visits, you should not plan to visit any colleges at this time.
Seniors still deciding? Connect with a student. If you would like to connect with a current student at a college you are considering, check out this list.
Gap year complications. If you have been considering a gap year, there are two factors to keep in mind. First, it is unclear if travel programs and internships will be up and running in the fall, so keep that in mind as you do your planning. Second, many more students than usual may request a gap year for the 2020-2021 academic year, and colleges may not be able to accommodate all the requests. Some larger colleges may take more students off the waitlist if they approve gap year requests, but not all colleges will be able to do this and survive financially. If you are set on taking a gap year, you should decide on a college and request a deferment as soon as possible.